Kyrie Irving, Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony Davis
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

There are five games on the New York Knicks schedule that every fan should have highlighted on their calendars.

The New York Knicks are looking to rebound after tying their worst record in franchise history a season ago. It shouldn’t be hard to top 17 wins with their new and improved roster, but never say never with the Knicks.

A brutal early schedule could put New York in an early hole. Of their first 27 games, they play 18 playoff teams from last season. For a team that made wholesale changes to the roster this offseason, they’ll have little time to develop chemistry before getting punched in the mouth.

Here is a look at five can’t miss games on the schedule this season.

First Look At Brooklyn -- @ Brooklyn Nets -- Oct. 25

The Knicks won’t have to wait long to face their crosstown rivals. For the second straight year, the Brooklyn Nets and Knicks will meet in Barclays Center for their second game of the season. Last season, Brooklyn edged out New York on a late score from Caris LeVert.

This season will be much different. The Nets are no longer sneaking up on anyone. Even with Kevin Durant sidelined for the foreseeable future, Kyrie Irving makes the Nets a dangerous team. This will be the first of four meetings with Brooklyn and could set the tone for the rest of the season series.

Porzingis Return -- vs. Dallas Mavericks -- Nov. 14

We all knew this game would be on the list. Kristaps Porzingis is a marked man among Knicks fans. Over time, they might soften on the Latvian superstar. But, for now, the wounds still cut deep. Porzingis requested a trade in a January meeting with the front office and he was sent to the Dallas Mavericks almost immediately.

With Porzingis linking up with Luka Doncic, the Mavericks could be a dangerous team in the Western Conference. They have two budding stars, while the Knicks have a few young players who they hope turn into stars at some point down the road.

Interestingly enough, Porzingis will play his former team for the first time on Nov. 8, but that game will happen in Dallas. KP’s return to Madison Square Garden is the one game on the schedule every Knicks fan has circled. Expect the MSG crowd to come at Porzingis as hard as any former Knick in recent memory.

On the flip side, you can bet that Porzingis wants to show out in this game. There has been no love lost after his tumultuous relationship with the Knicks ended. Dallas has two days off prior to this game so don’t expect KP to sit for “load management” or any other nonsense.

Must Win? -- @ Sacramento Kings -- Dec. 13

Must win? A game against the Sacramento Kings? In December?

This isn’t about the Kings as much as it’s about the other teams the Knicks will have to play before and after this game. When the Knicks travel to Sacramento, it will be the third game of a four-game road trip on the west coast.

Moreover, this game will come during a brutal 13-game stretch. During that span, the Kings are the only non-playoff team the Knicks will play. Head coach David Fizdale will be tested early in the season and this span of games could be the death knell for the Knicks’ playoff hopes in 2020.

It might be a tad reactionary, but it’s hard to see the Knicks surviving this stretch of games with their playoff hopes intact. Teams with a lot of turnover on the roster tend to take a little longer to jell. By Sacramento, the Knicks could be in scramble mode and desperate for a win.

This “can’t miss” game is about more than one game.

Zion's Debut -- vs. New Orleans Pelicans -- Jan. 10

Zion Williamson has played in MSG before, but Friday, Jan. 10 will be the first time he does so as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. This game will draw major attention, for obvious reasons. In fact, it’s one of three nationally televised games the Knicks have all season.

It will be RJ Barrett‘s first meeting with Williamson in a regular-season game. The former Duke teammates and close friends squared off in the first game of Las Vegas Summer League, which ended up being the highest-rated Summer League game in NBA history.

Suffice it to say, this game will draw national attention no matter where the Knicks and the Pelicans are in the standings. Knicks fans will be forced to wonder what could have been if the ping pong balls went their way in the lottery.

Anthony Davis Arrives -- vs. Los Angeles Lakers -- Jan. 22

LeBron James always makes a splash when he comes to the Garden. However, he won’t be the main attraction this time around. Anthony Davis can become a free agent in 2020 and the idea of him coming to New York has already been floated by his agent, Rich Paul, according to reports.

The Knicks are still looking for their next star and they have the cap flexibility to make a run at Davis next summer. When Kevin Durant played in New York last season, there were billboards calling on him to sign with the Knicks. Expect to see the same kind of treatment for Davis when he comes to the Big Apple.

Obviously, Knicks fans understand why it might be unwise to put all their eggs in one free agent basket. That being said, the rumblings about Davis signing with the Knicks could become an ongoing story in 2019-20, like so many free agency sagas before him.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.